Deodorant probably isn’t the first product you’d think of switching out when deciding to go the au naturel route. Yet that’s exactly what I did. Looking for cleaner solutions in my life from food to skincare, deo seemed like the right place to dive in. Many mainstream antiperspirants contain controversial ingredients like aluminum, parabens, and triclosan. So, I decided to test a few organic alternatives for myself. It’s time to start the conversation that no one (I mean no one) wants to talk about: sweaty, stinky armpits.
Here’s the good news: There are options, people. And I’m not talking about rubbing herbs into your pits and winging it on a hope and a prayer. I’m talking effective solutions with well-known ingredients like tea tree oil, baking soda, lime, lavender, and sage. The main difference that you have to prepare yourself for (and I’m not gonna lie, it’s an adjustment) is you’re going to sweat.
“While natural deodorants are capable of controlling odor, they do not block perspiration, but instead help absorb wetness. This requires a shift in expectation—wetness control rather than true antiperspirant,” explains Erika Klemperer, M.D., an integrative dermatologist based in Santa Barbara, CA. The classic stick or spray you get from the drugstore uses ingredients like aluminum to block the sweat glands. Since aluminum is the first thing to get nixed in a natural formula, some deodorants can leave your armpits a bit damp. But keep in mind, sweat is good for you! It’s your body’s way of keeping cool and ridding your skin of impurities.
So while I did end up with moist armpits throughout my trial, these are the seven sticks, sprays, and creams that stood up to the sniff test.
1. RL Linden & Co Close To Me Uplifting Deodorant Spray
Deo details: This product sprays on, and then immediately dribbles downward. You need to move fast to stop the drips before they head south down your boobs. Definitely hold the bottle a few inches away from your pit as well. I noticed an immediate smell like an herbal flower garden (it has bergamot and rose geranium essential oils) that lasted for about 10 minutes. Then, it settled and became quite mild. After the dry down, your armpits feel a bit sticky—like they’re sticking shut—so that takes some time to adjust to.
Did it work? Through a game of backyard volleyball and a headshot photo shoot (including three wardrobe changes) the deo didn’t come off on my clothes—in fact it was truly invisible. And I didn’t have any odor problem. Job well-done by the olive leaf extract and tamanu oil (the antimicrobial compounds). I was impressed.
Shop it: RL Linden & Co Close To Me Uplifting Deodorant Spray, $42; credobeauty.com
2. Schmidt’s Fragrance-Free Natural Deodorant Stick
Deo details: On freshly shaven pits, this stick goes on a bit rough in texture (though it does go on clear). It gets a bit crumbly, so you have to rub, smash, and smear. But the benefits far exceed the crumbles since it’s full of good-for-your-skin moisturizers like shea butter, coconut oil, and jojoba seed oil.
Did it work? After that initial battle, it stayed on clear, and the fragrance-free promise is legit. I didn’t smell even a hint of a fragrance—good or bad—and this was in the face of heavy lifting (building and setting up deck furniture), plus digging and planting trees. Not a drop of sweat or body odor betrayed me.
Shop it: Schmidt’s Fragrance-Free Natural Deodorant Stick, $9; schmidtsdeodorant.com
3. Le Couvent Des Minimes Everyday Deodorant
Deo details: I loved this roll-on that went on slick and wet, then had a cooling effect. There’s a really light, faint citrus smell (thanks to a blend of blood orange, lemon, and mandarin essential oils plus purifying rosemary) that’s very fresh and lovely. The wetness creates a sticky effect that I thought would go away after it dried, but it was still a bit sticky even after that.
Did it work? On a warm spring day that I sported a tight dress and walked a mile to a meeting, the deo held strong. I even stopped to do a pit check and smelled nothing—and I mean nothing. And that’s alright with me.
Shop it: Le Couvent Des Minimes Everyday Deodorant, $14; ulta.com
4. LoveFresh Mandarin Lime Deodorant Stick
Deo details: This looks like a regular circular deodorant, but it takes a bit more elbow grease to smear it on. It applies with a faint white cast, but then quickly turns clear. The shea butter and coconut oil helped hydrate my sensitive, shaven skin.
Did it work? Stress was the emotion of the day. Big presentation, nerves kicking in and I did begin to feel myself sweat—but not stink! The best part? After applying, you immediately smell like a margarita—making it confusing as to whether it’s breakfast time or happy hour. Bonus points for that. At night, I did notice a faint cast of white on the inside of my clothes but nothing was visible during the day.
Shop it: LoveFresh Mandarin Lime Deodorant Stick, $21; credobeauty.com
5. Nourish Organic Deodorant Cream in Almond Vanilla
Deo details: Turn-ons include the yummy sweet scent (like a cookie) and the creamy soothing formula made with sweet almond oil, coconut oil and aloe vera—it felt like a moisturizing treatment for my pits. The deo clicks up and shoots through a mesh top of tiny holes. User beware: Click one too many times and you’ll be dealing with a thick, goopy mess that begins to ball up and clump.
Did it work? I did have to brush off a large amount of deo balls into the sink before putting on my clothes. And found more in my clothes when I removed them at night. But under the duress of a 90-degree day sitting in the hot sun, I did not have any B.O. In fact when I did a smell-check, I still detected a trace of the almond vanilla, even though I was sweating buckets.
Shop it: Nourish Organic Deodorant Cream in Almond Vanilla, $7; nourishorganic.com
6. Burt’s Bees Herbal Deodorant
Deo details: This spray deodorant is hard to aim, so you don’t know exactly where it’s going to land. But it’s a clear spray and doesn’t leave any wet marks on your clothes. This product doesn’t even attempt to promise you won’t sweat—that’s not its job—instead it focuses on neutralizing body odor with a blend of sage, lemon, and lavender.
Did it work? My husband got a whiff of me after a hug and immediately said that I smell like a pine forest after it rained. Can’t disagree with him but the scent doesn’t last for too long before it begins to settle and fade. I tested it on a particularly hot day, and it did, for whatever reason, keep me from sweating and prevented any sweat stink from forming.
Shop it: Burt’s Bees Herbal Deodorant, $8; burtsbees.com
7. Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream Lavender
Deo details: For this one you’re gonna have to dig in…with your fingers…because that’s how you smear this stuff on. That’s a first for me. It feels a bit like putty and glides on easily. I used about a pea-sized amount at first, applied it to the top half of my armpit and then double-dipped for a bit more. Some did get trapped under my fingernails, but no big deal because you have to wash your hands after applying no matter what. It actually feels great and the scent is really subtle, almost nondescript.
Did it work? Hands down the best deodorant I tried. It did a great job withstanding the stress and would-be sweat associated with chaperoning 50 first-graders on a field trip (including a 30-minute bus ride). Nary a drop of sweat or fume of B.O. escaped.
Shop it: Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream Lavender, $14; credobeauty.com
Bottom line: I’ve converted full-time to natural deodorants (and my husband has, too). Though I haven’t remained monogamous to one brand, I’m definitely keeping the Schmidt’s, Meow Meow Tweet, and Le Couvent on my regular rotation. Each of these products are a healthier alternative to antiperspirant, and I still found their sweat and odor protection pretty impressive. That’s a win-win.